Tuesday, May 29, 2007

That's Not a Dog, It's a Dingo

What do you do when you find out your beloved canine companion is actually a stone-cold killer?

Mazzy hasn't snapped yet, but she wants to. The day my illusions of dog food and laundry commercials are shattered - where puppies sing about summer camp and frolick in freshly dried linens - is not long off. I will come home from a long day at work. Mazzy will approach me with her excited full-body tail-wag. She will have something in her mouth. I will think it is her favorite throwing toy. I will take it from her. It will not feel like her favorite throwing toy. It will be the punctured bleeding carcass of a cute furry woodland creature. I will be horrified. Mazzy will glow with the pride of the kill.

It's only days away. Mazzy is growing up and gone are the awkward puppy days of tripping over herself and flopping around rather than running. She is an athlete. I realized the other day while playing fetch that she could easily bound over our chain-link fence. Thankfully, this bit of information did not become apparent to her as she was focused entirely on executing a complete 180 degree horizontal turn while deftly catching her tennis ball four feet off the ground. "Holy crap," was my only reaction.

Squirrels used to torment her with their taunting chuckles and teasing runs through the yard, but the teasing runs through the yard seem to have decreased in frequency somewhat. I attribute this to the fact that I saw Mazzy almost - and by "almost" I mean through the jaws close - catch a chipmunk. That's taking it up a notch. For pure speed, I'll bet squirrels and chipmunks are in the same class, but chipmunks can absolutely throw down when it comes to manueverability and Mazzy turned with this poor guy dime for dime. The fence is the only thing that saved him and as soon as she realizes she can clear it with one hop we're all screwed.

I used to watch our family's Golden Retriever chase squirrels with what I would call detached encouragement. You just knew he wasn't going to get close, but you had to admire his commitment. If Mazzy has a puncher's chance with a chipmunk, the squirrels are on notice. The Dingo jokes were funny until the Dingo in her decided it hated squirrels. Hopefully, that's where it stops. If she can get chipmunks and squirrels, babies stand no chance, and I don't want to have to knock on any doors to explain to someone that my Dingo ate their baby.

I've Got a Feeling Somebody's Doping Me

Cycling is a ridiculously difficult sport. It encourages obsession and rewards suffering and it's because of this that the sport has been plagued by drug scandals since long before anyone cares to admit. The professional peloton is comprised exclusively of genetic freaks. Seriously, we're talking about a group of guys that God saw fit to endow with legs that do not tire and lungs the size of beer kegs. Oh yeah, and some of them have hearts that only need to beat 25 times a minute because they're SO FREAKIN' STRONG.

Falling far below this group of cyborgs is the rest of us. I speak of people for whom an extra 10 grams off their bike makes absolutely no difference because they're carrying an extra 10 ponds on their ass. The notion of blood doping amongst we relative miscreants is sort of like contemplating putting a hood scoop on a Saturn Ion. Laughable. For us - and I count myself among the 10 pound ass folks - obsession is negotiable and suffering has an off switch.

Which is why I've felt so odd recently. I am suddenly taking brutal pulls on the front of my group rides. I am attacking on hills and going over the top with gas in the tank. I am sprinting it out at the end of the rides, and not for 26th place. And I've checked, this is not a Special Olympics training ride. There is only one explanation for this sudden turn in form:

Someone is doping me in my sleep.

Seriously, I wake up and look for needle marks on my arms. Whoever is doing this has a delicate hand because I have yet to find any. I have felt like a lot of things on the bike, but Monster has not traditionally been one of them. Some of my favorites:

Microwaved Stretch Armstrong Action Figure - This one is a repeat offender and particularly popular during the summer months in Texas. If you can imagine your skin feeling light-headed, like it wants nothing more than to burst releasing your well-heated innards onto a skillet of asphalt, then you can imagine the Microwaved Stretch Armstrong feeling. This typically happens when it's hot and you did not bring enough food or water. Example: Relatively new to cycling, I went on a 54 mile training ride near Burnet, TX having only eaten 1 Cliff Bar before the ride. That's 240 calories toward a hilly 2,500 calorie effort (I know because I went home and read the back of the Cliff Bar wrapper. I had to quantify my stupidity). 1 solitary mile from the end I fell off the bike. I literally could not go one pedal stroke farther.

Circus Bear - All great cyclists have great nicknames. The Cannibal. The Lion of Flanders. The Pirate. The Circus Bear is not likely ever to be one. As a big rider - 6'2 who's been as heavy as 210 on the bike - I have definitely resembled the Grizzly in the pointy hat on the tricycle. Cute, but not going anywhere fast. In Texas this image was compounded by the fact that my training buddy was all of 5'4 and weighed 130 pounds soaking wet. We looked like a lycra-clad version of Abbott and Costello.

Tin Man/Joan Crawford - Shaky and stiff. Other riders drop their inside shoulder and carve a rail through the corners. I turn right angles and stutter my way through turns as I lose bowel control.

Marshmallow - White shorts, white jersey, early season ride with no tan. Marshmallow says a lot, but "wicked fast" is not one of those things.

Big Freakin' Sail - The kind you might find on a pirate ship. And to extend the analogy, my legs would be the pirates and they would be pissed. As in mutiny pissed. And instead of the wind catching the sail perfectly and propelling us swiftly and gracefully to treasured booty, it would be catching our sail and rapidly dropping us from among the booty (aka other riders). Throw a sea anchor in there as well and we're getting somewhere. Multiply this feeling by 10 if we're riding uphill.

For now, I'm not reporting myself to the authorities. I rather like the feeling of dropping people off the back of the group. I enjoy passing EVERY OTHER RIDER on a hill, catching their sideways glances, and reading expressions that say, "Fuck you for thinking this is easy." I am addicted to the manic spooling of energy that builds at the end of a ride and suddenly explodes in the violence of a sprint. I'm in love with the speed and power.

I guess I'm officially a cycling jerk.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Waking Up at Home 1,000 Miles From Home

It has been too long for me to even pretend to say that I have been soooooooooo busy or that nothing much has really happened. I have been busy, but no one is really THAT busy, are they? And much HAS happened. I won't place "good" and "bad" labels on any of it because, to be honest, I haven't made my mind up about whether "much" has been good or bad.

I'm going to ease in to this. In this first post I will not write about my new job or barely containing an emotional meltdown during Easter service while mourning the physical loss of a great friend and great pastor (all over again) or the emotional loss of a girl I alternately miss dearly and hate madly (but who may no longer exist) or the glory of my new MacBook (which is facilitating the writing of this little check-in) or the trials and trivialities of raising a dog meant to run free with the sheeps (yes, I know sheep is the plural and the "s" was unneccesary) or how that same dog can make you feel like a doting parent one minute and an enraged, blood-thirsty hammer-murderer the next or feeling socially retarded and completely unattractive to the opposite sex in a new city in which one knows no one or talking on the phone with a wise, wise friend from San Fancisco and questioning her previously unquestionable wisdom has she suggests match.com or dropping twenty pounds and cycling like seven hundred hells through 15 degree whether in lycra and how the loss of fat and scarcity of clothing do nothing to prevent a rapid freeze of every body part (EVERY part) or even the effects of a solitary eight hour work day on...cogent thought.

What I can touch on briefly to gentley reacquaint myself with the cold, deep pool of the blogdom are my initial impressions of the Midwest city I now call my home. In short, it's nice. I like it. My mind had plenty of time to form misconceptions during the eighteen hour drive to Middle America. Polish sausage. Brain sandwiches. Nasal accents. Smoke stacks. Obesity. Republicans. Guns. NASCAR. Flatness. More flatness. Wind. A steel mill. The humor of my bleak visions is that I was moving from Texas, a state I love dearly, but one with an over-abundance of more than a few of the aforemetnioned "bad things".

I have been pleasantly and shamefully surprised. Trees. Flowers. A river. Cyclists. Soccer. Sushi. Health food. Trader Joe's. Booze at the grocery store. Dog parks. Environmentalists. A hike and bike trail. Girls on that hike and bike trail in hemp bikinis (seriously). Museums. Parks. People who will talk to you in the grocery store. It is flat though. I now love to ride "hills" on the bike because they make me feel like a freakin' billy goat.

The best part is it's starting to feel like home.